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Defender balances cultures, career

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ryan Brooks
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

Two cultures. Two military branches. Two degrees.

These are just some of the attributes and achievements of Tech. Sgt. Madia Daniel, a first generation Liberian American who applied the lessons from her immigrant family to succeed while having joy.

Daniel, a 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron team leader, is currently working on her PhD in Family & Consumer Science while on her deployment in Kuwait. These pursuits are inspired by her parents’ influence, according to Daniel.

“I don't want to call it a burden,” said Daniel. “But it's a good torch to carry; to pick up where they left off and do what they weren't able to do. It’s good to just go further and to set the precedent for when I have children, to say, ‘hey, this is where I stopped, now you go further.’”

Daniel is a reservist deployed from Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas. Currently, she works one of the busiest gates on Ali Al Salem Air Base, she said, where she has enjoyed meeting many people, from Airmen, to coalition and joint forces, to leadership.

“I love to meet people and I want to do so with joy,” said Daniel. “My leadership often tells me something good they’ve heard about me from people coming through the gate. I think it’s great to be recognized, honestly, even if it’s for something as simple as doing my job.”

Daniel’s military career didn’t begin in the Air Force however.

“Originally, I joined the Army National Guard as military police out of Rhode Island and transferred to Texas, serving a total of 10 years in the ARNG,” said Daniel. “I had many great opportunities, such as serving in the state headquarters and deploying. I got out at my 10-year mark in 2018 with the intention to go full time and commission as a social worker in the Army on active duty.”

However, a spot didn’t open up for her during the fiscal year so the recruiter told her she’d have to apply all over again for the following year.

Daniel said that too much time had already passed since she was in the military and it was time to get back in. She asked the Air Force recruiters what her options were and enlisted in the USAF in security forces, allowing her to keep her E-6 grade.

Daniel is currently enrolled in three doctorate classes, aimed towards social work and commissioning. “When social work in the military comes to mind, we think about emotional health, drug abuse, addictive behaviors, or family services,” said Daniel. “For deployed service members, sometimes their family members or themselves need assistance. There are multiple aspects that social work tackles in the military and outside of the military.

“I love helping people. That's just me. So, when I moved to Texas, someone encouraged me to take a deeper look into social work and when I did, I thought, ‘wow, this is a ten for one field.’ The fact that I can do multiple things with just this one degree was super enticing.

“My main passion is quality of life. I love to help people and to see them do well; to excel in their lives and to give them the resources that they need to make the choices necessary to achieve their goals.

“Social work has helped me do a whole lot of that because you are a resource scavenger. You are a connector. It's super interesting. I do hospice social work full time in the civilian sector and it's a wonderful, rewarding profession to be a part of someone's journey at the end of their life, especially since it’s such a vulnerable time. And so, I just I love it. I absolutely love it. It gives you the opportunity to step into someone's world and empathize with them and learn a lot from them. They just share the most wonderful stories, too, because you know, they want to leave something behind. They want to leave their legacy and it's a wonderful thing.”

Daniel is no stranger to taking full advantage of learning from the experiences and lives of others. She needn’t look much further than her own parents for such lessons in life. Although at much different ages, her mother and father migrated from a war-torn Liberia with their families in the 1970s and ‘80s. Her mother, 5 years old, and her father, 28, when they arrived through the port of entry in New York fourteen years apart. Both of their families eventually settled in a Liberian community in Rhode Island where they would eventually meet.

“It made for an interesting dynamic in the home,” said Daniel. “My dad grew up fully in the culture to adulthood, but it was different for my mom. While she was raised in the culture at home, things were more Americanized for her because she was enrolled in the American school system, so it was totally different.

“It's just an interesting thing, growing up with those different mindsets. It's super wonderful. I loved it! I love being a part of essentially both cultures. That's what it was. They made sure that we ate the cultural foods, so when we drove by a fast-food restaurant, that was a no-go most of the time. ‘No, no, no. You're going to eat rice and stew. That's what you're eating tonight, OK?’

“And also, my dad was super big on education because he didn't have the opportunity to go while he was in Liberia. So, he wanted us to take advantage of everything that the States offered. He came with this mindset of, ‘I didn't have it, so you make sure that you get everything that you can that’s offered to you here.’ My mom tells us it's good to do these things but she's just more relaxed about it, having grown up in America. So yeah, it's just honestly wonderful and it's shaped a lot of the way that I think as well. Also interacting with my grandparents, my aunts, and the rest of my family has shaped me because they were all born and raised to full adulthood in Liberia.”

This family influence, and especially her father’s, according to Daniel, was forged in hardship but yielded great fruit. Her father was formed into a man of good stewardship and he never stopped encouraging his children to take advantage of what the States had to offer.

“I need to go further,” said Daniel. “That drive to just go further, to do more, to not settle… you know, that’s what motivates me through life to keep on going, and going. ‘You can do it; multiple things at once. You can do it.’ And so that's what I do.”

Legacy… It matters what we leave behind for the generations to come, insisted Daniel. The lessons from her parents run deep in her core and is what has propelled her to continue striving for more, while maintaining her trademark upbeat outlook. Contemplating her own legacy, Daniel desires to propel her children to live full lives and to make wide-reaching differences in the lives of those around her.

“Towards the end, one of my hospice patients always remarked, ‘it's been a wonderful life,’” said Daniel. “And I thought, that's all that I have wanted for myself and that's all that I still want for myself… at the end, to say ‘it's been a wonderful life.’ I want to do all the things that I want to do, and I don't want to leave any regrets behind.”